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Import Controlled Goods into Singapore

What You Need to Know When Importing Controlled Goods into Singapore

 Import Controlled Goods into Singapore.

What are Controlled Goods?

There are some goods that are labeled as ‘controlled goods’ and the import/export of these goods come under the control of the Controlling Agencies. Examples of controlled goods: cigarettes or any tobacco product, animals, food products, petrochemicals and drugs. In this guide, we take a look at the licensing requirements for the importing of controlled goods into the island-city state of Singapore.

What Sort of Permit Do I Need to Get to Be Able to Import Controlled Goods?

Before you can import any goods (which include controlled and non-controlled goods) into Singapore, you’ll have to apply for an IN Permit through TradeNet®, and you’ll have to do it before the goods are imported into Singapore. Since they are subject to control by ‘Controlling Agencies’, the controlled goods will also have to be authorized by the respective controlling authority.

Which Goods are Subject to Import Control?

If you want to go over a comprehensive list of controlled items, please head on over to the Singapore Customs website and look for Goods Subject to Control under the Import & Export Procedures headings. For this guide, we’ll be going over 7 different categories of goods which are subject to import control:

(1) films, video games, audio/video records, publications

(2) pharmaceuticals, medicines and poisons

(3) animals

(4) plants and plant products

(5) endangered species of plants or animals

(6) arms and explosives, weapons or toy gun and

(7) telecommunication equipment.

What Do I Need to Know About the Import of Films, Video Games, Audio/Video Records & Publications?

Films – To import films, you’ll need to have a valid import permit that’s been approved by Singapore’s MDA (Media Development Authority). The import permit will be necessary to facilitate customs clearance.

Video Games – For the importing of video games, you’ll need to have a valid import permit that’s been approved by the MDA.

Audio CD’s – An importer wishing to import audio CDs for commercial purposes has to declare them through the TradeNet® system. It is important to note that these audio CDs must not contain undesirable content, which is anything that’s been deemed obscene and/or objectionable under Singapore’s Undesirable Publications Act.

Videos – You’ll have to obtain an import permit from the TradeNet® system in order to import videos meant for commercial purposes. During the application process, the permit declarations will be sent to Singapore’s BFC (Board of Film Censors) and the importer might have to present additional information regarding the consignment.

Publications – To import publications of any sort, you’ll require an import permit that has been endorsed by the MDA. You will not be required to pay any fee or obtain any other license, although the MDA may request to see a sample of the publications, or a list of all the titles being imported.

Broadcasting Apparatus – You’ll need a dealer’s licenses, issued by the MDA, In order to import broadcasting apparatus. The license costs SGD 330 and is valid for one year.

What Do I Need to Know About the Import of Pharmaceuticals, Medicines and Poisons?

For Registered Medicinal Product Only authorized medicinal products are allowed to be imported into Singapore. The Medicines Act states that, in order to import registered medicinal products, the importer must have the relevant product licenses or an ‘Import License (For Authorized Agent) for Medicinal Products’.

The latter is issued by Singapore’s HSA (Health Sciences Authority), and it will only be issued to those importers who are authorized by the product license holders to import the licensed products on their behalf. In order to be successfully issued an import license, the importer must ensure that the medicinal products are in compliance with HSA’s Good Distribution Practice standard.

If the importer has the intentions to sell the registered medicinal products to others (resale), they will have to apply for a difference license instead – the Wholesale Dealer’s License for Medicinal Products. Note: There is another license that can be obtained from HAS if the importer is neither (a) a licensed product holder nor (b) an authorized agent for medicinal products. It is called ‘Import License on Consignment Basis’. Basically it allows the importer to import registered medicinal products, but on a per consignment basis.

For Unregistered Medicinal Products, on a Named-Patient basis

If the medicinal products are not registered in Singapore, they can still be imported on a named-patient basis, subject to approval by the HAS. There is approval fee for the license, but the importer will have to disclose the product details, importer details as well as patient and physician details. In addition, the importer will also have to maintain records on both the supply and use of the unregistered medicinal products.

For Medicinal Products meant for Re-Export HSA approval is required for any import of medicinal products into Singapore that is meant to be eventually re-exported to other countries. The consignment has to be exported from Singapore within 2 years of the import date

For Chinese Proprietary Medicines (CPM) In order to import Chinese Proprietary Medicines (CPM), the importer must obtain an ‘Import License for Chinese Proprietary Medicines’. This license is issued by Singapore’s HSA (Health Sciences Authority). It is the importer’s responsibility to ensure that the CPM being imported is registered and approved for sale in Singapore (otherwise no license will be issued!) In order to be successfully issued with an import license, the importer must ensure that the CPM is in compliance with HSA’s Good Distribution Practice standard If the importer has the intentions to sell the registered CPM to others (resale), they will have to apply for a difference license instead – the Wholesale Dealer’s License for Chinese Proprietary Medicines.

For Poisons In order to import poisons, the importer has to obtain a ‘Form A Poisons License’. This license is issued by Singapore’s HSA (Health Sciences Authority), and it will only be issued to a registered pharmacist who works for a company that deals with active pharmaceutical ingredients, intended for local sales, medicinal products, or controlled drugs. Any transactions related to the imported poisons will be the responsibility of the license holder. In order to be successfully issued with an import license, the importer must ensure that the poisons are in compliance with HSA’s Good Distribution Practice standard

For Restricted/Psychotropic Substances and Controlled Drugs Only a registered pharmacist is allowed to apply for and obtain an import authorization for the importing of restricted/psychotropic or controlled drugs. The registered pharmacist in question also needs to hold a valid poisons license. A consignment containing these substances and drugs must be imported within 6 months of the authorization date.

Frequent Asked Questions

What Do I Need to Know About the Import of Animals?

There are a couple of things you need to know about the import of animals and animal feed: If the animals, birds and small mammals are to be personal pets: Be aware that the importing of animals into the country is regulated under the Animals and Birds Act.  If you’re thinking of importing such animals for pets, you must acquire an import license from AVA, which stands for ‘Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority.’ This license costs SGD 50 and must be obtained from AVA no more than 30 days prior to the arrival of the animals. Why 30 days? Because the license’s validity is 30 days from date of issue. Any importing of dogs, cats, small mammals, birds and other pets are subject to AVA’s veterinary conditions, which includes requirements like healthy certification, inspect by AVA as well as quarantine. Singapore does not allow the import of reptiles, insects and spiders. If the animals, birds and small mammals are to be commercial pets: Commercial pets simply means that the animals in question are to be imported for commercial purposes. If you want to import animals for commercial purposes (with the exception of domestic birds, day-old-ducklings/goslings and day-old-chicks), you have to have an AVA Import License and CCP (Customs Clearance Permit. The license costs SGD 87 (per consignment) and is valid for 30 days from the date of issue. Anyone who imports the pet animals for commercial purposes must also have AVA-licensed premises to hold the animals in. Any importing of dogs, cats, small mammals, birds and other pets are subject to AVA’s veterinary conditions, which includes requirements like healthy certification, inspect by AVA as well as quarantine. To those who wish to import animals to serve as livestock (goats, sheep, poultry birds, etc.), a ‘License to Import Domestic Birds, Table Eggs, Sheep and Goats’ must be obtained from AVA. There’s no fee required and the license serves as a one-time registration. If the animals are to be used as lab animals: Firstly, all lab animals must be imported from AVA-credited exporters, no exceptions. And the only people who can import lab animals are AVA-licensed institutions who actually use these animals for scientific reasons and purposes. These institutions will need to obtain an AVA import license and CCP (Customs Clearance Permit) before the lab animals are imported. The fee for the AVA import license is SGD 87 (per consignment) and it is valid for 30 days from the date of issue. Any importing of lab animals are subject to AVA’s veterinary conditions, which includes requirements like healthy certification, inspect by AVA as well as quarantine. If the animals are ornamental fish: Ornamental fish refer to the varieties of salt-water or fresh-water fish that have ornamental value. The import rules for ornamental fish also cover other forms of aquatic life, as well as their young and their eggs. Fish and fish products, intended for human consumption, are excluded from this category. Anyone who wishes to import ornamental fish must satisfy certain criteria set forth by AVA, as well as apply for an AVA import license, which costs SGD 350 and can be renewed on an annual basis. If the import goods are animal feed: Any importer of animal feed supplements or premixes should provide technical information, in regards to the ingredients used in said feed, to the AVA. The information is required for the AVA to do a proper evaluation before the imports come in. Any animal feed containing meat/meat-products from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia & New Zealand may be imported into Singapore, as long as the consignments are accompanied by a certificate, one issued by the exporting country’s veterinary authority. All consignments of animal feed must come together with an AVA Import Permit which will cost $22 per consignment. Importers of Animal feed must also ensure that the consignments are in compliance with AVA’s labeling requirements.

What Do I Need to Know about the Import of Plants and Plant Products?

This category includes plants, plant products (seeds, timber, ginseng, etc), foliages, potting mixture and so on (Please go to Singapore Customs for the full list). These are all subject to AVA’s regulatory requirements. This category also includes fertilizers or plant origin and insects and microorganisms that are important for agricultural purposes – these will require prior approval of the AVA before import. Also, in order to import plant and plant products into Singapore, the importer will need a phytosanitary certificate from the country of origin as well a CCP (Cargo Clearance Permit) from AVA. This permit costs SGD 11 and has a validity of 2 weeks. Imports of plant and plant products may undergo AVA inspection, and the importer should ensure that any consignment of plants or plant products must be in compliance with AVA’s plant health import requirements.

What Do I Need to Know About the Import of Endangered Species of Plants/Animals?

CITES stands for – The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. It is an international between various countries; its purpose and goal is to ensure that any international trade in specimens of wild animals and plans does not threaten the survival of those species. An importer looking to import CITES-listed plants or animals, for either personal or commercial purposes, must apply for a CITES import permit. The permit can be obtained from AVA, one week prior to import. They cost SGD 12 per species of plant or animal. When applying for the Singapore CITES import permit, you must also attach a CITES export/re-export permit from the exporting country.

What Do I Need to Know About the Import of Arms and Explosives, Weapons & Toy Guns?

An importer who wishes to import arms, guns, explosives, poisonous gas or substances into Singapore must apply for an A&E (Arms and Explosives) License from the Singapore Police Force. The licensing fee will depend on the kind of arms and explosives that are being imported. No license is required for the importing of toy guns, but a Licensing Officer from the A&E Division of the Singapore Police Force must still inspect and approve the toy guns. The toy guns must not look like real guns – if they do, they will not be approved by said Licensing Officer. All unapproved toy guns will either be disposed of, or re-exported – the choice is up to the importer. For all of those goods mentioned above (except for toy guns), they will be inspected by the Police Licensing Division as soon as all of the goods clear Customs. Armed escorts are required for the carrying of arms or explosives anywhere within Singapore. Note:  An importer can import a samurai sword (such as used by a martial artist or weapons collector) through a forwarding agent. The sword will then be subsequently inspected at the point of entry. Any sort of hunting or survival knife has to be approved by the A&E unit.

What Do I Need to Know About the Import of Telecommunication Equipment?

The importer of the telecommunications equipment needs to ensure that the equipment is in compliance with Singapore IDA’s (Infocomm Development Authority) technical specifications and standards. If the importer intends to import the telecommunications equipment for the purpose of sale or lease in Singapore, they have to obtain a dealer’s license from the IDA. It is the responsibility of the importer to ensure that said equipment or devices are not prohibited under Third Schedule of the Telecommunications (Dealers) Regulation Approval from the IDA is generally not needed when it comes to the importing of telecommunications equipment. Approval is only needed for prohibited telecommunication equipment or devices. For example: military equipment and scanning transmitters. Final Note: Cargo agents and freight forwarders can be a big help to trading companies when it comes to import consignments. They are already very knowledgeable in the various import licensing requirements and clearance procedures and some trading companies find that utilizing their services can save them a lot of hassle.

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To further aid you, we have provided here a resource area with industry specific information and other industry resources to help you successfully start and run your business.

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By Eric Eio
Managing Partner of Paul Hype Page & Co.

Eric was awarded an ACCA graduate in 2000 and also graduated from University of Sydney with a Bachelor degree in Computer Science & Accounting. Since graduation, he had worked in Big 4 as an auditor , including a one year overseas stint with Ernst & Young, Shanghai in 2005. He left his last appointment as an Audit Managerial position with PricewaterhouseCoopers, Singapore in 2008 before setting up his own Certified Public Accountant Practice – Paul Hype Page & Co. His firm is being selected to be one of the advisory panel for Singapore top 500 SME.